By the end of the series, all the wonder and inspiration and promise of the first book–that any poor, neglected kid might be an unexpected letter or a dirty old boot away from being transported into a world of magic–wrapped back around on itself.
The children had fought the same battles their parents did against the same enemies, often alongside their parents’ old allies or with their enemies’ old schoolbooks. A work that set out to critique British ideas of aristocracy and “bad blood” and social stations ended up reinforcing that good people raise good kids and bad people raise bad kids. Most of what makes Harry Potter special, he unwittingly inherited from parents he never met. In the end, the true hero of the story is the grown man who never got over his fourth-grade crush.
In the time-skip epilogue, everyone who liked each other in middle school were now married and taking their kids to that same school, along with all of their old classmates. And all the old schoolyard alliances and rivalries were more or less as they were, despite having everyone having saved the world and/or tried to conquer it in between.
One can just imagine Arthur Weasley as the Cliff Claven of Magical London, stopping by the local for a quick pint on his way home from his government job and spending all night trying to impress everyone with dubious facts about muggle appliances. The Sam Malone might be Oliver Wood–having used the Galleons he made with his cup of coffee with Puddlesmere United
to buy said pub, he’s now toweling off pint glasses under a picture of himself on the pitch and never letting anyone forget he captained Gryffindor back in his glory days.
Now, for the record: There’s nothing wrong with all this. I married my high-school sweetheart, we live in my childhood home, and our kids attend the same schools we did. By any standard, I live as traditional and provincial a life as one can in 2020s America. But if you’re still reading this, you know I’ve always read widely and dreamt big–and all the stories I cherished most kept their promises, and all of my dreams for myself came true.
I’m living the life I always wanted to lead. My wife and I have never been more in love. My kids are coming into their own as they come out of lockdown, inspiring me every day as their own worlds of possibilities open up before them. I’m a professional writer of both sports articles and fantasy stories. I have a weekly newsletter that hundreds of people subscribe to!
I’m not the most famous guy from my little town. Heck, I’m not even the most famous author
. But I’m reaching for the stars while
putting down roots, coaching sports and volunteering and being part of my community in ways that aren’t just good for me and my family but also feed my Writer Brain.
Meanwhile, though Rowling recently bought her childhood home
, she doesn’t live there. She owns two estates in Scotland, and by all accounts is a security and privacy fanatic. She clearly spends much of her free time on the Internet, scowling at all the under-40 types who were inspired by her stories to lead big, vibrant lives of magic and wonder and empathy and acceptance. She’s still writing, but pretty much just thinly veiled polemics against whoever she’s currently maddest at.
Though she rose above her station in the most British of ways–pluck, luck, and good breeding–it feels like she’s obsessed with high-school glory days she never had (her old English teacher once described her as “not exceptional”
). It’s as though she wished the world were smaller, like her magical London that only has about 42 wizards in it. It’s like she wished she’d never gotten those degrees, never gone on those adventures, just had a couple of amazing school years where it felt like she could
do anything and then chose to get in line with everyone else.
As wonderful as coming of age can be, teaching kids that they’re entering an incredible new dimension of infinite possibilities and they’d better enjoy it, because after a couple years of that is decades of regretting your choices and waiting to die is, just, not it.
Obsessing over youth is something only old people do. Young people keep growing, seeking, learning and connecting–no matter their age.